What Are Fruit Flies Attracted To?
In 2017, the Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine went to scientists who discovered some interesting similarities between fruit flies and human beings. This isn’t the first time fruit flies helped someone bag the Nobel prize.
But despite how useful they are in helping us understand the world of science, you can never look at a fruit fly infestation and feel good, right?
If you are looking for solutions to such a problem or want to get ahead of the situation and avoid one, we can help you out of your practical, very annoying and potentially dangerous predicament.
Fruit flies are drawn to sweet-smelling, sugary, and fermented fragrances the most. They are attracted to ripe fruits and vegetables, but rotting and carbon dioxide-producing foods are just as appealing. They will also seek out damp areas.
The Myth That Fruit Flies Come Out of Nowhere
Because of their name, many believe that fruit flies actually come from fruits which is why the infestation seems to have happened pretty much overnight and very suddenly. But this is actually a myth.
They don’t come out of nowhere and they don’t exactly come from fruits. They are, however, attracted to a lot of everyday things in the house which is why a fruit fly infestation is quite common.
So, what attracts fruit flies? There are thousands of fruit fly species but the one we know more than the others is the common fruit fly. Its biological name is Drosophila melanogaster.
It is about one-tenth of an inch long and is a light brown or tan color. These insects have bulging eyes that are red in color or a bit darker. The other species are not very different from an infestation and cleaning point of view, which is helpful.
These are tiny insects and if you had to treat them differently by identifying them visually it would be a near-impossible thing for a non-professional to do.
Now, fruit flies are not always born out of only fruits but they are definitely attracted to sugary, high-fructose food items—often fruits in the house—which is where they get their name from.
They are particularly easy to find on bananas that are not refrigerated and often left on the countertop which makes them an easy target. This also applies to other fruits like melons, apples and tomatoes which are sweet.
Fruit flies also like fermented or rotting food items which are where they like to lay eggs. So, there is a scenario where they come from fruits but for that to happen, you need an adult fruit fly that is already in and around the fruit to lay eggs in it.
An overripe or blemished fruit is just the perfect ingredient in the recipe for an infestation.
The reason why there are so many fruit flies so quickly is because these insects have the incredible ability to breed with super speed when they are indoors. They are capable of laying up to 500 eggs in one go and they can keep going till about 2,000 eggs are out.
That’s not it. In about 30 hours, they are ready to hatch and attack more of your food which is why the moment you spot the first one, you should jump into action.
And since their life cycle is so short, efficient, and happens near or on the surface of an overripe fruit, the larvae have ready-made food once the eggs hatch.
The eggs are often placed in the ripest or blemished part of the food item which is also moist and supports life. It makes it easy for the larvae to have access to food as soon as the eggs hatch. But for you, it does make the problem so much worse than it already is.
They feast on this food till they are developed into adult fruit flies which happens in a matter of days. Hang on. There’s more bad news. In just about two days after they become adults, these little guys start mating. It all happens unbelievably fast.
An average fruit fly lives for 8 to 15 days but under good conditions—meaning your neglect—they can go on living for 40 to 50 days. You cannot let that happen. So, let’s go digging into the source.
What Is Bringing Them Home in the First Place?
There are four items that are very likely to bring them into your home and unfortunately for you, these items are very common.
The thing about overripe, fermenting or rotting food items is that they contain yeast which is step one in the cycle of decomposition. This is what catches the fruit fly’s attention.
Any kind of sap coming from fruits, veggies, mushrooms and even alcoholic beverages (because of the fermented sugar) because of how ripe or ready to rot they are is also a major attraction. Fruit flies love to feed on it.
Typically, what the fruit fly does is that it pierces into the skin of the target food and lays its eggs in there. Imagine the piercing when you get a tattoo. That’s kind of how it is. And they lay the eggs on the food and wait for them to hatch while feeding on the food item.
Sap or Honeydew
These insects are also big fans of honeydew that aphids, another bug that likes to feed on plant sap, produce.
So, if you have indoor plants that are being attacked by aphids and are producing honeydew, you are also likely to have a fruit fly infestation.
That’s a double whammy that can be easily prevented. But we will get to that in a minute.
And fruit flies are also known to enjoy a warm sunny day. It sounds like a nightmare but it also means that their pattern is predictable and for one, it’s all throughout the year.
It means that you must be more careful in summer and spring when you are likely to leave the doors and windows open for some sunlight.
They also like to hang out in and near feces because of the moisture and the nutritional value. You might want to take care of that especially if you have pets.
How Did They Enter Your Home?
This isn’t so much of a puzzle, actually. There are three simple ways in which fruit flies find their way into a house.
- It’s possible that the target fruit or vegetable was attacked before you brought it home. This also means that the fruit or vegetable probably has eggs in it which makes it dangerous to consume.
- It’s also possible that they smelled the delicious food you brought home. Fruit flies have a very strong sense of smell which is a survival skill for them. And if you don’t take care of it, it might turn into a death knell for you. Just a little bit of fermentation is all it takes to get them invited.
- The third possibility is that they just got through any existing cracks in the walls, doors or windows. These insects are very tiny and it’s not a problem at all for them to enter your home. And as you now know, they like warm indoors because of how perfect the conditions are for them to lay eggs.
How to Get Rid of Them
Apart from the fact that it is a pest, fruit flies are germ carriers. They collect stuff from a dirty surface (like the rotting and fermenting objects they have been living on) and plant them on a clean surface.
They are popular carriers of bacteria like E. coli, listeria and salmonella, all of which can lead to food poisoning. And as you know, neglecting these conditions may land you in the emergency room and can be lethal.
So, it is important to know how to get rid of them quickly and effectively.
Investigate Where They Are Coming From
You must figure out how the flies entered the house. This means finding food that has been left out in the open. Get rid of it and clean it to make sure there are no leftover particles in the area. This will remove their lodging and feeding source and inspire the insects to find a different home.
Keep All Surfaces Clean
This is probably the easiest thing to do. And it helps that you should do this anyway. The best way to get rid of fruit flies is to make sure that your countertops are all wiped down.
You should also make sure that the sink drains do not have food particles lodged in them. Get rid of any lingering residue too. These places are slightly damp and that’s a great breeding place. So, take care of the source.
Take Care of Garbage Cans
You want to make sure that your trash cans are not the culprit. This is because garbage cans are often filled with food residue, fermenting items and decaying materials. When the garbage is of this nature, the can is also likely to be damp which helps fruit flies feed and breed.
Take a good look and see if they are lingering near your garbage bins. We say good look because these are tiny insects and can escape the naked eye unless they are present in groups. Get some heavy-duty bleach and make sure the trash can is wiped down properly. Clean and dry them before you use them again.
Don’t Keep Overripe or Rotting Produce Outside
You must make sure that the produce in your house is not left outside. If it is fruits that are not refrigerated, you must make sure that you consume them before they are too ripe and attract these little flying insects.
Leaving decaying produce exposed is a big red flag even irrespective of the fear of fruit flies. These are great places for fruit flies to lay eggs.
Trap the Fruit Flies Skillfully
If you suspect an impending infestation, get a glass or bowl of apple cider vinegar. Cover it with a plastic wrap and poke some holes in it. The sweet smell of apple cider will attract the fruit but they are not skilled enough to get out of the holes. This will trap the insects and kill them.
You can do the same by mixing a little dish soap into the apple cider vinegar. The dish soap will help reduce the liquid’s surface tension and suck the fruit flies into the solution which will also trap and kill them.
You can also lure them in with stale wine or beer. You don’t have to do much in this case because fruit flies have trouble escaping the narrow neck of the bottle.
Get a Trap or Hire an Exterminator
In some extreme cases, you might have to get a store-bought trap. These are easily available in hardware stores and are commonly called stick fly traps. They work on fruit flies as well as common flies. They contain a sticky area where the insects are trapped. Once that part of the trap is full, you must dispose it of and replace the trap if needed.
And if you cannot clean this mess on your own, you might have to hire a professional. It can be a bit expensive but it is very effective. And in these cases, chemicals are used to solve the problem which means you must make sure that your kids and pets (if you have any) are kept away to avoid any allergic reactions.
The Bottom Line
There are a lot of things in and around a regular household that can attract fruit flies. In fact, we see them all the time. A lot of people are annoyed by it but not enough to do more than just swat them away with their hands.
But you now know that that kind of neglect brings with it a whole set of other problems. The fact that you saw fruit flies means they found a way in. They also found food they like and might have laid eggs which makes it dangerous to consume the food item.
And they carry rather dangerous diseases, which is always a risk with pests. Luckily, you now have an arsenal of home remedies to get rid of them. And in case it’s not enough, a professional can help you out.